Posted by: Jerry Garrett | August 8, 2010

Ten Top Places To View 2010 Perseid Meteor Shower

[Though the 2010 Perseids are behind us, you can still use this guide for planning to watch other meteor showers later in 2010 and next year; plus, you can plan ahead for next year’s Perseids. For my latest column on watching another celestial phenomenon, check out this column on where to watch the Northern Lights.]

Where is a good spot for some star-gazing?

That’s an especially relevant question, with the 2010 Perseid Meteor shower nearly upon us. Some of the best viewing conditions in years are forecast for the peak: Late August 11 to the wee hours of August 13.

(This guide is also applicable for other annual shooting star viewing opportunities, such as November’s Leonids and mid-December’s colorful Geminids showers.) See the 2010 sky calendar here.

Time-lapse Geminids shower (Courtesy WebEcoist)

What has Perseid stargazers so excited in 2010? The moon – only a tiny sliver during the height of this year’s shower – will be below the horizon. That means skies will be about as dark as possible – and stars will be as bright as possible. At its peak, as many as 120 “falling stars” per hour may be visible.

Where is the best place to watch the meteor shower? Here is a list, heavy on viewing locations in the Western Hemisphere, where I know best:

1. The consensus pick seems to be Southern California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The skies are invariably clear here, and the ocotillo-studded desert is very sparsely populated. Mount Laguna, which overlooks the desert, is possibly even better. San Diego State University operates a small observatory there.

The observatory is comprised of 13 telescopes, operated by several nations.

2. Professional star-gazers swear by the 13-telescope complex at Mauna Kea observatory, atop the Big Island of Hawaii’s big volcano. The Visitor Information Station’s Onizuka Center for International Astronomy will be open for the occasion, and expert astronomers will be on hand to answer questions (this excellent article addressed a lot of mine). In my experience, however, Mauna Kea is too often cloud-bound.

3. The sparklingly clear skies above the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and northern Mexico also offer ideal conditions. But the area has been a bit of a battleground lately in the immigration and drug trafficking fights.

4. In South America, Chile boasts some of the best viewing locations – especially the desolate Atacama Desert. Bring water; it hasn’t rained there in more than 50 years!

Meteors in the Utah skies (Courtesy KSL-TV)

5. “Color Country” in southern Utah – the high mountains above Zion National Park, west of Bryce Canyon National Park and north of the Grand Canyon North Rim – are remarkably beautiful viewing areas. The skies are generally pollution-free, and pitch-black.

6. Oregonians swear by the wide open spaces near Bend and Sun River, especially up in the mountains. Sun River even has a small observatory, but in my experience, it is too often closed.

7. Speaking of observatories, CalTech’s Palomar Mountain Observatory north of San Diego, boasts one of the world’s finest telescopes. But the facility is closed to the public after 4:30 p.m., so as not to interfere with ongoing scientific studies. But there is a campground on the darker east side of the mountain, where star-gazers traditionally gather to watch the night skies.

Historic Lowell Observatory boasts many astronomical discoveries.

8. Historic Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona, is open – and offering several programs around the meteor shower. The hard-core star-gazers cluster at the famed meteor crater near Flagstaff. Everyone has their fingers crossed for clear skies. (Lowell also operates telescopes in La Serena, Chile, and Australia.)

9. Joshua Tree National Park, north of Palm Springs, California, also offers almost a guaranteed prospect of clear skies and a dark night, far from the light pollution of cities.

10. What is purported to be the darkest spot in the eastern United States is at remote Cherry Springs State Park near Coudersport, Pennsylvania. The park attracts East Coast star-gazers year-round, and a popular annual event here is the Black Forest Star Party.

Star-gazing is, to me, the ultimate democratic exercise: Anyone can do it. And when you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are.

Jerry Garrett

August 8, 2010


  1. […] Also has some stargazing info you might like (though I haven’t read it all). There is a spot in California that is a star gazers favorite.  Woohoo! Published in: […]

  2. How about…”My Back Deck, Covered in Bug Dope, Wrapped in the Purple Afghan My Mommy Knit for Me”…? 🙂 Sounds like the perfect place to view the Perseids! Here’s hoping for a cloudless sky tonight!

  3. […] the Perseid Meteor Shower, the Photonaturalist site has suggestions and links.  Also the Top Ten Places to View the Perseid on Jerry Garret’s […]

  4. Thanks for posting the ten best spots. I have added a link to your blog in my own article on the meteor shower on Natural History Wanderings.

  5. Picture with Lowell observatory caption is actually Kitt Peak.

    • Believe you are right. Lowell Observatory looks like a souffle bowl. Thanks for pointing that out.

  6. […] Ten Top Places To View 2010 Perseid Meteor Shower « Garrett On The Road on September 1, 2010 at 7:18 […]

  7. yeah my dad will like this

  8. The Sonoran desert is huge, and a lot of the Mexican problems have been grossly exaggerated. Don’t press the hype pls!!

    • I agree. Mexico is having some problems, but they are exaggerated and sensationalized by the news media. I just got back from ten days in Jalisco state, and I never had one moment’s concern for my safety. But be careful going out in the desert alone at night – for any number of reasons.

  9. How can I find a group to go with? (Southern California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park). I would love to go. If any one has any info. pls let me know.

  10. […] tips on the best places to catch the meteor shower, check out my column on the 2010 Perseids. I will post further updates on the Perseids, as this year’s event […]

  11. I enjoy, cause I discovered just what I used to be having a look for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  12. […] Observers still might be able to observe up to 10 shooting stars an hour, if they are in an area with extremely dark skies. For tips on where some of those locations might be, check out my column about the Ten Best Places to Watch a Meteor Shower. […]

  13. […] that have been something to see? For some suggestions about the world’s best viewing locations for meteor showers, check out some of my earlier […]

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